Daily Archives: April 6, 2016

All those flocking waders…

A couple of posts ago I wrote about the vast flocks of geese which overwinter on The Wash; and there were also big numbers of other birds including small groups of dunlin close in by the shore:

Dunlin (Calidris alpina, Dansk: almindelig ryle)

But a little further out, and almost invisible until they took to the air, were enormous flocks of thousands of dunlin. I couldn’t see what flushed them, but every few minutes they rose en masse and put on a stunning display of aerobatic prowess:

Thousands of dunlin moving in very close proximity at high speed and never colliding

Occasionally they turned into the sun creating a shimmering ribbon of grey and white across the sky:

And as with the geese in the previous post the other thing which I hadn’t thought about until they were swirling overhead was the noise. It was a very different sound to the geese which gave a slow muted beating sound, the dunlin sounded more like a fast moving cloud of enormous insects. It was a really exciting spectacle. And as well as the dunlin flocks of oystercatcher wheeled over from behind and landed in a line on the mud flats:

Several hundred oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus, Dansk: Strandskade) seeking safety in numbers

… and it’s always good, but increasingly seldom, to see flocks of lapwing (Vanellus vanellus, Dansk: vibe):

When I was a kid in the 70’s vast flocks of lapwing were a relatively frequent phenomenon in the fields out in the countryside around home, but their numbers have plummeted twixt now and then, so it’s good to see there are still places where thay can still be found doing what lapwing should be doing!

Aurora borealis

A couple of weeks ago my very good friend from Thessaloniki, Agni, returned from a trip to Finland and sent me these pictures of the Northen Lights, or to give it its correct scientific name, the Aurora Borealis. The Aurora occurs when streams of charged particles from the sun are driven out into space by the solar wind. They are largely deflected by the earths magnetic field but at the poles where the magnetic field is at it’s weakest they can enter the atmosphere and react with different gases, and different gases produce different colours. The most common colour is yellowy green which is generated by oxygen at a height of around 60 miles.

Despite being half Danish and spending nearly all my summer holidays, and some winter holidays, in Scandinavia, I’ve still never seen the Aurora, so I think these pictures are absolutely stunning. And it must have been totally jaw-dropping to see it for real so I’m now even more on a mission to go and see them for myself!

Aurora borealis‘ means ‘dawn of the North’ and is named after the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, and the corresponding Aurora in the Southern Hemisphere is called the ‘Aurora australis‘ or ‘dawn of the South’.

I don’t normally post other peoples pictures here but these are so special they have to be shared, so I’m really grateful to Agni for letting me post them. They were taken with a Nikon D3200 on a tripod with a 10s exposure time. And they’re so cool!